What does the Digital Divide mean?
I feel it is important to have a deep, full understanding of a problem before you go about finding solutions to it. Since I will be focusing on Digital Divide issues and suggesting solutions for them, I need to know precisely what the Digital Divide refers to before I do anything.
What does the Digital Divide mean? Why does it matter? To whom or what does it refer to? How does the divide close? How would you know when its closed? What does the solution(s) look like? How can you tell if a solution is appropriate for a specific geographical area? How do you measure the successes or failures of a solution? Does the Digital Divide only apply to people or to organizations as well? What kind of people does the Digital Divide target? What kind of organizations?
I dont think it does any good trumpeting statistics that demonstrate low levels of computer literacy among the poor and under-privileged. Bottom line: computers are a luxury item. Theres no getting around that. Its a hard sell, and giving out computers willy-nilly to people who dont know how to use them in the first place just will not work. You just dont need a computer to be successful, happy, or give back to your community.
The Digital Divide does matter, but I feel there needs to be a consensus as to what exactly it refers to and how to best solve it. As I stand right now, the Digital Divide means the difference of communication-technology skillsets between the most adept users and all the rest. The name Digital Divide implies 'haves' and 'have nots', but in reality the Digital Divide is more like a pyramid. There are those at the top who actually engineer and advance communication technology, those in the middle who know how to effectively manuever the technology, those in the bottom who have little to no technological ability, and then those at the absolute bottom who are lost to us. To extend the pyramid metaphor, the point is not to bridge the divide but to square it so that everyone is at the same level.
The Digital Divide is a problem, but it is crucial that the problem of unequal communication-technology skillsets be framed appropriately. The term Digital Divide implies a means-to-an-end and not the end itself because technology is viewed as a way to introduce equality rather than being equality itself. This is a wrongheaded approach. Discussions on the Digital Divide need to be focused on issues of social inequality not technological inequality; access to public resources not access to computers; overall skillsets and abilities not just computer literacy; etc. When framed in this manner the Digital Divide becomes much bigger, much more socially relevant, and given its just importance. Computer literacy is a means to an end (this is a fact!), but it must be sold as an end if Digital Divide solutions are to be successfully initiated.
To solve the Digital Divide (or the Digital Pyramid to rid myself of the misleading alliterative term) means introducing skillsets, giving computers and free internet access to those who would actually benefit from it (preferably after successfully completing a free computer-literacy program), and enhancing non-profit capacity building and effectiveness through communication technology. If I could prioritize these, I would say non-profit capacity building is by far the most important as they touch more lives as a whole and conform to the social equality value more directly. Then followed by introducing computer skillsets through after-school programs because they touch far less lives but still conform to the social equality value. Finally, the giving out of computers and free internet because of the high cost associated with giving out computers to people and the even less amount of lives touched.
Alright, I feel better after that.